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Arian Foster: The Best HB in Texans History

Joe Stafford '18, Contributor

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Undrafted, unnoticed, and without hope. Every year, the
National Football League leaves countless prospects with these
crippling emotions. They begin to swallow the unfathomable reality
that their football career is finished with. A narrative old as time
itself, but narratives can always be rewritten.

Cue Arian Foster: Running Back, University of Tennessee.
Uncoordinated, lacking incredible speed or agility, and not smart
enough to handle the game at the next level—these were all knocks on
Foster coming out of college.  Teams were not ready to invest a
valuable draft pick – or any pick, period– on the unproven commodity
that possessed a running style that had not been successful in recent
years.

Foster watched peers like Shonn Greene and Glen Coffee being
taken off the board. Round by round passed; he waited anxiously.
Eventually the last pick in the draft rolled around. The pick was in.
“With the last pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, The Kansas City Chiefs
select… Ryan Succop, Kicker, South Carolina.” Foster had gone
undrafted. Teams didn’t deem Foster worthy to be taken. In Foster’s
mind, he was looked at as less than relevant. He was not going out
without a fight; he was not going to be denied.

At the Draft’s conclusion, teams began calling, inquiring
about Foster coming to rookie mini-camp. As it turned out, he had his
pick on where he would begin his NFL journey. The Houston Texans
became Foster’s home. He was quoted on saying it was the “right
situation” for him to come into the backfield and thrive.  At that
point, however, he was misguided. On September 5th, 2009, Foster was
released and, after clearing waivers, was put onto the Texans practice
squad. This motivated him even more. He worked even harder than before
and was re-signed to the active roster on November 17th. The following
Sunday he debuted in the NFL against the Tennessee Titans… on special
teams. He remained on the active roster and began sliding into the
halfback rotation. On December 27th, just two days removed from
Christmas Day, Foster hit a milestone… His first touchdown as a Texan.
A 17-yard run up the middle of the Miami Dolphins defense sparked a
surge in his play. So when Steve Slanton, Ryan Moats, and Chris Brown
began struggling and dealing with injuries, Foster got the opportunity
to start. The New England Patriots marched into Reliant Stadium on
Week 17 expecting no challenge; they rested 5 starters to ensure less
injuries for the playoffs. This was a mistake; they had no idea what
was coming. Foster torched the Pats defense, running for 119 yards and
scoring two touchdowns, the last of which came in the final minutes to
win the game. History was made, as the victory gave Houston its first
winning season ever. This not only propelled the Texans into
legitimacy in the scope of the AFC, but it gained respect for Foster,
especially from his teammates. Andre Johnson was both the emotional
leader and field general at the time. This performance made Johnson
take notice of Foster’s skill and work ethic.  Next season was going
to be something special. Johnson knew it, and so did Foster.

Foster burst onto the scene in 2010, taking over the starting
role full time. He compiled 231 yards and 3 touchdowns on opening day
to beat the Indianapolis Colts, led by the inimitable Peyton Manning.
This performance broke the prior Texans record for most rushing yards
on opening day, and it was good for 2nd all time for most running
yards on opening day (O.J. Simpson still holds the record). History
was made on the first game of the season, and it was only the
beginning.

This game confirmed that the AFC South had the two most exciting
backs in football: Arian Foster and Chris Johnson. Foster’s one-cut,
tough running style helped elevate to a new level a Texan offense that
already featured studs Andre Johnson, Matt Schaub, and Owen Daniels.
Because Johnson posed such a constant threat on the deep ball, this
took less and less people out of the box to go cover him. This allowed
Foster to plunge through the middle of defenses, making the Texans
offense a true run-and-shoot team. Gary Kubiak, the head coach at the
time, realized the potential the offense and put it to good use. Matt
Schaub began playing at a high level, Johnson made cornerbacks look
foolish, and Foster punished anyone who tried to tackle him. He
finished the season with 2,220 all purpose yards, 18 total touchdowns,
and an average of 101 yards per game (ypg). His total rushing TD’s and
total rushing yards led the league that year. This not only propelled
him to his first Pro-Bowl appearance and massive media attention, but
it earned him a First Team All-Pro selection. He went from being
deemed irrelevant in the draft process to becoming one of the best 22
players in the NFL.

In one year.
Wow.

The next year brought with it the same Arian Foster. Now that
teams had film on Foster, analysts and GM’s—the so called “football
experts”—claimed that Foster had no shot to match his production from
the previous season. They were dead wrong. Foster played only 13 games
due to injury, yet he still finished the 2011 season with 1,841 all
purpose yards and 12 total touchdowns. He achieved 2nd Team All-Pro
honors and began rehabbing intensely; the drive inside of him ached to
get back onto the field and produce another stellar year. He didn’t
disappoint. He played in all 16 games in the 2012 season and finished
with 1,641 all purpose yards and 17 total touchdowns. They might as
well have put “Touchdown Machine” on the back of his jersey. He led
the NFL in rushing touchdowns for the 2nd time in 3 years. For the
next three years injuries plagued Foster; he never played another full
season. The Texans grew frustrated with Foster and began searching for
a replacement. Ben Tate, Alfred Blue, and Kenny Hilliard were drafted
to help Foster with the work load and potentially replace him. It did
not take long for that to happen.

Arian Foster was released by the Houston Texans in 2015, being
succeeded by Lamar Miller. Miller was a talented HB coming off a
career year in Miami. Ironically, Foster did not find work for months
upon months. The former rushing leader was on the couch, and then the
Dolphins called. He was brought up to the active roster and was
intended to be a complimentary piece to Jay Ajayi, a second-year
runner from Boise State.

In the middle of his second game, Foster injured his lower leg.
After missing three more games, Foster made the decision to retire. He
was quoted on saying, “This game has been everything to me … my
therapy, my joy, my solace and my enemy. I’ve learned to love every
facet of this game, from the peak of accomplishment to the gutter of
criticism. And it all makes the ride worthwhile.” His roller-coaster
career was over at 30 years old, and what a career it was.

Foster’s career will be carried on in the hearts of Texans fans
for years. Foster still holds the most rushing yards ever by a Texan
(6,472), most rushing touchdowns ever by a Texan (54), most rushing
yards in a single season by a Texan (1,616), and most rushing
touchdowns in a season (16). Not to mention, he is the first player in
NFL history to have 100+ yards rushing in his first three playoff
games. For the people who say he is not Canton-worthy, read this
article again. Then tell me your answer.

Arian Foster, you will be missed.

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Arian Foster: The Best HB in Texans History